Monday, June 18, 2018

An "As If" Personality Lives At Least 9 Lives

cover of first edtion
Have you ever felt that you were an “as if “ personality living a narrative you’d read in a book or seen in a movie. Identification is the whole point of classics like The Catcher in the Rye and what’s astonishing is the variegated personalities that are capable of seeing themselves in the story, people who have perhaps never even been to Manhattan and have never heard about the clock in the Biltmore and any of extinct milieu that Salinger alludes to in the book. Great art seems to cut a large swath in which people can find room for their condition. So many people see themselves in Chekhov and identify with the longings of say his Three Sisters, Masha, Irina, and Olga that one wonders if the playwright wasn’t at times bothered by the fact that people seemed to have expropriated his creation, paying little credence to the fact that it was his not theirs. One might not say the same thing about Titus Andronicus. Few people identify with serving someone’s children to them at dinner, but isn’t there a little bit of Anna Karenina and War and Peace in everyone. Flaubert famously said, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” But he might more accurately have said to many of his readers “Madame Bovary, c’est vous!” to the extent that a good portion of the books following comes from romantics who see themselves in the plight of its anti-heroine. When Brecht created the idea of the Verfremdungseffek or “estrangement effect,” he was attempting to give his audiences back their own reality rather than sweeping them up into an Aristotelian catharsis. The fact is, however, that a good many people who read books do so because they want, if only for a short period of time, to be someone or be somewhere else.

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